by Shara

Buffy is not surprised to find Faith sitting here-- dangling her legs over the edge of the building, still in the gear she was wearing down in the Hellmouth.

It's cool up here on the roof of the motel, but this is a welcome sensation after the stifling heat of the bus and the dusty roads.

She steps closer, crouching beside the other girl. Faith is looking intently in the direction they came from this-- was it really only this afternoon?

For a moment, she follows Faith's line of sight and stares out into the darkness. Mildly puzzled--

"You know that even with that famed Slayer eyesight, you can't see the crater from here, right?"

Faith shrugs and doesn't avert her gaze.

After a short pause, Buffy settles down next to her, the heels of her once chic but now scuffed shoes scratching the walls below them lightly.

"Not trying to. Just...trying to get grounded again."

Buffy can feel her eyebrow lift of its own volition.

"And you chose the top floor of a shabby motel for that?"

A decidedly un-ladylike snort is the predictable reaction.

"Just looking for some space after all the crowds-you ever come from one big house full of big girls straight to a little house full of little girls and then march right into another kind of oversized trap, this time housing a vampire army?"

"Which was blowin' in the wind, in the end. Plus, you can't complain about lack of open space now." Buffy can't help it. She really, really can't.

She should be quiet, she should certainly and mourn and possibly lament the people who had died. Spike and Anya are gone, but while their sacrifice is still fresh in her mind, their loss doesn't seem real yet.

She feels it burn deep within, this thing she discovered with Spike, something so heavy and bittersweet that it's impossible to ignore, but right now it's not a blazing fire but glowing embers. While death weighs heavy on her soul, in these slow hours after midnight, there is also a sense of living that she is unable to keep down.

She squints at the girl next to her, so quiet, and, out of a sudden impulse, bumps Faith's shoulder with hers.

"How come you're the one all pensive and ponder-some? Shouldn't you be celebrating and..." she searches her mind for something that doesn't make her opposite feel like a total ho-- although, being Faith, she would probably just grin and be insanely proud of it, "...changing the bandages on Prin-- Robin?"

Now Faith does turn her head, the beginnings of a smile in her eyes-- a bit incredulous but more approachable, even if the shadows on her face aren't gone. Of course they aren't.

But Faith's words aren't quite what she expected.

"I love you, Buffy."

This is certainly what Angel meant when he talked about curve balls. She freezes for a moment, thoughts racing in her head like proverbial hamsters in a wheel-- and while they are all anxious, they are also quite...appealing.

She can't see the other girl all that clearly in the darkness, and right now, she's quite happy with that.

Buffy exhales.

But before she can speak up, she hears Faith's husky voice again, still a bit amused, but infused with a seriousness beneath it that makes something in her ache-- not unpleasantly so.

"Relax, B. Not a marriage proposal. Besides, you've known."

And this is true. Not in the sense that she ever found doodles of her name in Faith's old motel room-- so not Faith--, but there's always been something. Buffy doesn't much believe in common destinies these days anymore, but this thing with her and Faith-- that was real. A connection that sparkled after the suspicion and envy of the first days gave way to a feeling of exhilaration about sharing this powerful mixture of burden and gift. Slaying itself only fuelled the bond, and she can't help but think of all their moments, the wicked brightness in Faith's eyes when she was with her back then, and this odd, thrilled feeling deep in her stomach. Had she examined it closer then-- as she would later and with much more emotional intensity of a different, darker colour-- she would have known it was a real crush on the wild girl by her side, but back then, there was Angel to think of, and that really was a different matter altogether.

Yes, the fight-or-flight reflex is still there. But now, there's also whole new set of indescribable emotions filling her up-- that, and this idea of a new, improved Buffy whom she can't stray from this early.

Love, give, forgive?

"I've...thought about it a lot, actually."

She can almost feel Faith blink, these long, overly mascara'ed lashes of hers touching her cheeks as if they are Buffy's own.

This is when she realises her gaze has dropped, she's looking at her hands clutching the rough concrete edge. Buffy forces herself to focus on Faith's face-- a white spot in the dark.

"Have you? Thought about me?" The eyes meeting hers are serious, but the cool, guarded look she's always worn like a piece of cheap but favourite jewellery has disappeared. Buffy can't remember when exactly that happened.

Not that it matters.

Faith hasn't been transformed into an open, trusting, and sweet creature overnight, or even over the course of the last few weeks, but something has changed indeed.

This is why Buffy takes the plunge. She does acknowledge it's very carpe noctem of her, but there's this bubble inside her, and this girl outside, and she really wants to share.

"I've always felt it." She looks at Faith, really looks at the other girl.

Had she known it would be like this, she-- no, she couldn't have done it earlier; the loving and aching and mourning and hope that she sees in Faith's eyes is something she hasn't felt this acutely before. Either seperately, yes. A combination, of course; but never all of this at once.

And Faith is blinking a little, laughing a little and, surprisingly, leaning back until she's lying on her back.

She does keep her eyes on Buffy, though.

When she touches her hand, it's sending a tiny jolt to Buffy's nervous system. Faith tugs her down, softly but insistently, and Buffy's back comes into contact with the rough gravel still retaining some residual heat from the day.

They are lying side by side, staring at each other, and although it's only their hands that are now intertwined, Buffy can feel her heart pounding-- stronger than it ever did when they fought dozens of monsters together.

Faith's face is serious again, but there are still traces of a smile, somehow. For once, everything about her seems soft. She rolls over a little bit, slowly turning towards Buffy now, and her other hand reaches out and brushes her cheek.

But this hand touching her is trembling slightly. Faith exhales loudly, an older, darker expression flitting over her face; but there must be something she sees in the other girl's face that manages to chase it away. Besides, Buffy is shivering herself, and it's really not from the cold. Not at all.

"Man, look at me, I'm such an ass." Faith's voice is a whisper, urgent and low now, and going straight to her spine, making her clutch Faith's surprisingly small hand more strongly. "Actually dreamed of this, right? Grand old revival tour of the famous Chosen Two, you'n me rolling back the last apocalypse, teary declarations of love and forgiveness ensue."

Faith pauses, their gazes still locked, and Buffy can only stare back at her, mesmerised. But the thing is, she's not sure she's the rabbit and Faith is the snake-- she strongly suspects Faith feels just as hypnotised-- but then, no snake could do the quirky eyebrow lift.

"That's before the NC-17 part kicks in. Of course, sometimes, in my mind, we skip the talking altogether and go straight to the fucking. But you know me, B. All that wicked energy just gotta go somewhere."

Yes. She gets this now, after last year, after quite the learning experience.

Buffy feels open and exposed, in a weird but wonderful way, strangely giddy with anticipation. She wants to run, she wants to keep doing the things that make her shiver so agreeably, she wants to keep hearing Faith's words and being looked at like this, without expectation but with certainty.

So she surprises herself by speaking again, blinking up at Faith from her prone position, and smiling back. "Well, we might go for the middle ground here, seeing as you talked about some grounding."

Faith is lightly brushing errant strands of hair out of her face, an expectant, lazy expression on her face, her mouth curved into that old, trademark smile.

"So, what's it to be? Confessions in the dark? Hugs and kisses?"

Buffy turns to her fully now, inching closer until their noses are almost touching. She nods. "The whole Hershey's assortment."

And then, they are kissing and it's wonderful; soft lips against soft lips, brushing easily at first, mouths opening slowly, and oh God, it feels so good-- they are touching each other, fingers sliding down bare arms, the faint taste of Buffy's own shampoo lingering in that incredibly soft spot below Faith's left ear, mixed with that unique scent she remembers from before, of cheap fruity lipstick, fake leather and darkness-- something that might not and should not ever be totally gone.

They kiss and make up and explore, on top of the world, on top of each other, and it's all so easy all of a sudden, like falling and being caught, and if she was really corny-- which she so isn't--, she'd mentally add "in these strong Slayer arms".

When their lips separate a while later, Faith grins playfully and-- quickly, but not too fiercely-- bites the tip of her nose. Buffy yelps in surprise, mostly because she thinks it's expected, but also because she feels a bit touched by this gesture of tender affection á la Faith.

She draws back, still holding hands but eyeing Faith suspiciously.

"Hey, we don't have to start putting little stickers saying 'Slay Pride' everywhere now, right? Cause I don't know if I'm ready for the whole..."

"Coming out of the coffin thing? It's a problem."

And Buffy stuns both herself and Faith again by shaking her head and grinning widely.

She's still feeling this deep sorrow, and there are too many eulogies on her mind, but for now, she's also strangely at peace. When she speaks again, her voice is confident.

"It's alright. We'll be fine. In fact-- we'll be five by five."

And Faith kisses her again.


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